Hike 14 of my 52 Hike Challenge was a Native American historical extravaganza. I love learning about Native cultures and the ancient city of Cahokia is a fascinating piece of history that has been studied and preserved in Southern Illinois. I had planned to visit the museum (free, $7 donation suggested for adult visitors) and then hike a bit and climb Monk’s Mound. Luckily I arrived just before the only tour of the day, an hour-long walking history lesson through an important area of the city.
The tour was excellent and our guide was very knowledgable about the site. We learned about the three types of mounds built in the city (platform mounds used to elevate elite/ceremonial buildings, conical burial mounds and ridge-top mounds that are a bit of a mystery but probably used to measure direction and distance as they are placed at regular and intersecting intervals). We also learned about different areas of the site like the palisade wall and the common area called the Grand Plaza, artifacts found in the largest active archeological site on the continent, clues about the residents’ extensive trading practices and possible theories about the quick and mysterious abandonment of the city (which was bigger than London in AD1250 with approximately 20,000 – 40,000 residents).
I cannot stress enough how much I recommend a stop at this UNESCO World Heritage Site if you are visiting Southern Illinois or the St. Louis area. Cahokia Mounds was only a 15 minute drive from downtown St. Louis – it’s a must do.
After the hiking tour, I continued my hike on my own by climbing the 154 steps to the top of the 100′ tall Monk’s Mound, the largest of the 120 mounds on the 2,200 acre State Historic Site and the largest man-made earthen structure in North America. The views from the top were gorgeous, especially in the spring when everything was lush and green.
Again, I think this is a can’t-miss hike if you’re in the area, and is worth the effort for a day trip. Beautiful midwestern scenery, many trails to choose from, interesting features to hike and rich history make Cahokia Mounds so much more than a regular hike! I hope to visit again and try out some other trails.
Have you ever visited Cahokia Mounds or a similar Native American site?